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Senate rejects changes to course requirement in opioid bill

A last-minute attempt to strip out a narrow requirement for the continuing education course required by the bill combatting the opioid epidemic failed in the Senate Wednesday.

Both HB 21 and the Senate opioid bill, SB 8, would require all physicians who prescribe controlled substances to take a two-hour continuing education course every two years to maintain their medical license.

HB 21, however, requires the course be administered by “a statewide professional association of physicians in this state,” while SB 8 simply required the course be board approved, similar to the requirements for other continuing medical education courses.

The House passed the opioid bill last week and the Senate is considering their version in lieu of SB 8. An amendment filed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, the Senate bill’s sponsor, on Monday didn’t change the language surrounding the course.

Fort Lauderdale Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston attempted to remove the requirement via a late-filed amendment, but the measure was defeated Tuesday afternoon.

With the provision still in place, there are only four groups that would qualify to offer the course as of now: the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, the Florida Academy of Family Physicians and the Florida Psychiatric Society.

FMA and FOMA were singled out by House lawmakers last week as having the most to gain by the course requirement.

Avon Park Republican Rep. Cary Pigman said at the time that the associations “will get revenue of $4.4 million to $8.8 million every two years, which is probably why they support this bill. So when we vote for it with this piece in it, that’s what we are voting for.”

FMA rejects that assessment, contending that any number of organizations can take the steps to become certified.

“The amendment failed, reflecting the desire for a uniform continuing education course on controlled substance prescribing,” said FMA general counsel Jeff Scott. “It is important to note that the course will have to be approved by each board that has practitioners who prescribe controlled substances, and will be provided by any entity that has the required national certification – of which there are currently several.”

HB 21 is pending a vote in the Senate, after which it will move back to the House for a final vote, barring any other amendments.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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